Video shows ‘use of force’ arrest for fare enforcement issue aboard train in Capitol Hill Station — UPDATE

Video showing a violent tussle as four security officers attempt to subdue a man aboard a Sound Transit train Tuesday night inside Capitol Hill Station has many calling for the transit agency and King County Sheriff to explain the use of force and the policies around fare enforcement on the area’s light rail and bus systems.

A representative for King County Sheriff which provides police service along with Sound Transit police on the light rail system said a statement on the arrest is forthcoming and that he expects video showing the full incident to be released.

According to the representative, the incident began before the 9:30 PM arrest with the man cited for a fare issue as he rode on a northbound train. The man reportedly began causing a disturbance and exited the northbound train, crossed the platform, and entered a southbound train. There he was contacted by deputies and Sound Transit police leading to the scramble on the floor of the train caught on video. The sheriff representative said the glasses that can be seen busted in the video actually belonged to one of the security personnel in the incident.

Fare enforcement is a controversial issue for Sound Transit and King County Metro with critics pointing to its unfair impact on homeless and low income riders as well as people of color. Despite that, both agencies focus on infrastructure that is more about scale and ease of use than turnstiles and tickets. Typical fines for infractions are around $124 and enforcement officers usually let first-time offenders off with a warning.

UPDATE: Fare enforcement for Sound Transit and Metro is provided by Securitas, a private company under contract with the agency and King County. “Eighteen Securitas USA officers, all with at least two years of structured security or military and strong customer service experience, were hired as fare enforcement officers,” the company reported in a case study (PDF) on its work with Sound Transit. “Their training involves extensive role-playing scenarios, including dealing effectively with disruptive or malicious behavior, as well as report writing that is appropriate for court proceedings.” Securitas USA officers “balance their role of outreach to riders needing assistance with enforcing rules that maintain a safe and pleasant riding experience,” the study reads.

Regardless of how Tuesday night’s situation began, the use of force over a fare enforcement issue will still trouble many. We’ve asked Sound Transit for more information about the situation and the use of force related to fare enforcement and will update when we hear back.

UPDATE 9/20/2018 8:15 AM: In a post to Twitter Wednesday night, the King County Sheriff department’s public information office provided a summary of the arrest by its deputies with details of how the security personnel say the incident began. Video of the start of the incident has not yet been made publicly available. The department says the suspect was booked for unlawful transit conduct and resisting arrest.


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55 thoughts on “Video shows ‘use of force’ arrest for fare enforcement issue aboard train in Capitol Hill Station — UPDATE

  1. Why not just make transit free if fares shouldn’t be enforced. Seriously. It only makes back part of its cost, and then we wouldn’t need enforcement officers (or a bunch of accounting people for fares, probably). Then we don’t have to worry about the social justice impacts of enforcing fare rules and we save money.

    • Yes, if a sufficient numbers weren’t governed by unenlightened self-interest. At worst, a minuscule tax could clean this up once and for all.What does it say about us that thuggery is a first choice?

    • I don’t think anyone deserves a beat-down just for fare evasion, but consider that:
      1. If everyone knows there’s zero enforcement, why would anyone pay?Years ago, (I don’t know if this is still true), I rose transit in a few formerly-East Bloc cities (specifically Prague and Budapest), and even though transit was NOT free, probably 90% of people didn’t pay. I remember asking somebody and they said, “they never check, so nobody pays”. Except, I noticed, tourists. They paid anyway.

      2. If you want to raise the point, “so? Let’s make it free, then”, you have to expect a LOT more people would then ride transit. All the trains and buses would be packed (even more), and you’d need more transit. Without any fare revenue, however much that is. To sustain that you’d need to raise taxes.

      There are a lot of factors to consider. I don’t think jack-booted fare collectors are the answer, but I don’t think zero enforcement and free fares is practical either.

      • Let’s make it free, then”, you have to expect a LOT more people would then ride transit. All the trains and buses would be packed (even more), and you’d need more transit. Without any fare revenue, however much that is. To sustain that you’d need to raise taxes.

        If a LOT more people are riding transit, then we could shift some of the billions spent adding single lanes to our highways. That would more than add the capacity needed for free transit.

        Plus, as more people use transit, they’d be willing to shift transit funding to a more stable funding source than sales tax.

      • So for the billions that are spent on highways and funded with gas taxes, the suggestion is to convince the legislature (that’s composed of almost 50% Republicans in the Senate, before you even address Democrats from rural areas that probably will get little benefit from transit; as well as House Republicans and House Democrats from rural areas); convince them to redirect gas tax money away from roads to transit? Because the legislature would have to ok it. Or maybe put that gas tax redirect up as an initiative. I’m totally sure people in, say, Pierce County would be all over that, since they’re so happy paying Sound Transit taxes for what they perceive is no benefit for years. And then later we’ll find a “more stable” funding method besides sales tax”? Like, say, property taxes? So the burden can fall proportionately more on homeowners who as a group might not use transit as much as renters? Or do you mean like an income tax, which would *totally* pass in the rest of Washington?
        Bubble, much?

      • Well, if transit was free and a LOT more people are riding transit, then those people are driving a lot less and therefore gas tax revenue goes down.

        Since the rural areas are almost completely dependent on revenue from the more populated areas where everyone is now taking free transit rather than driving and generating gas taxes, their revenue has now dried up. R or D, rural representatives would be stupid to not look for better sources of funding, be it sales tax, property tax, employer head tax or income tax.

        Since transit use leans heavily toward commuting for work, an employer head tax would be the most logical way to pay for it. Almost 300,000 people work just in downtown Seattle. A head tax of $25 to $100 would generate a lot of money towards free transit.

        Hell, the state employing a form of subarea equity, similar to Sound Transit, would generate a boom of revenue for the populated areas, of course at the expense of the rural areas, who can’t generate the revenues they need.

        Granted, the idea of large scale, free transit in the USA is nothing more than a thought experiment. We can’t even pay for our education and infrastructure. Free transit would take a few decades of political upheaval to even be talking point.

        Like, say, property taxes? So the burden can fall proportionately more on homeowners who as a group might not use transit as much as renters?

        Ugh, this fallacy again. Have you ever met a landlord that didn’t pass on property tax increases to renters? And if so, do they have any vacancies?

        …Asking for a friend.

      • Ask your “friend” if he/she seriously believes on a per-unit basis a 6- or 7- story 100- or 200- unit apartment building really sees the same, non-attenuated impact of a property tax levy increase that a single family home does? Ask your “friend” if he/she understands that many large apartment buildings got multi-year tax abatements for some of their units in exchange for designating a (pretty insignificant) number of units as “sub-market based” rentals. (Apartments that are still, BTW, what many people would call expensive anyway), but nonetheless partially spared the building owners of some property taxes anyway. Which results in them not having to pass as big a tax increase along in the form of rent increases as they would if they felt the same brunt of all these property tax increases that Mr/Ms average homeowner does. ((Most of whom aren’t earning the same high salaries as the people paying $2500-3000 rent on these high-end apartments). What’s “fairly obvious” is that you probably don’t own a home. If you do, I don’t know how you don’t remember the 8 or 9 tax levy increases we’ve had over the last few years alone; or the levy fatigue so many average Seattle homeowners have been rebelling against in the last year or so. The news in the last few months has touched on rent *decreases* as rental supply increases, as well as promotions, free months, etc. Landlords can’t just pass everything along, and in fact lately, they’re not. What similar options do homeowners have to paying their increasing property tax bills, when rents fall? Do they get the breaks that renters do when competition prevents building owners from raising rents? No. Do you really think highly-paid tech workers that are renting $2500/mo apartments are paying the same tax burden with no state income tax, and one that’s not likely to happen anytime soon? And don’t even talk about a city income tax, because it’ll never happen. All that’ll do is crater the real estate market, unless you think Bellevue, Redmond, and Kirkland would eagerly jump on the bandwagon. Like they did during the head-tax debate. Uh-huh.

      • What’s “fairly obvious” is that you probably don’t own a home. If you do, I don’t know how you don’t remember the 8 or 9 tax levy increases we’ve had over the last few years alone; or the levy fatigue so many average Seattle homeowners have been rebelling against in the last year or so.

        I do own my home. I’ve actually reviewed and understood every levy that’s been put in front of me. I voted for nearly levy because even as a homeowner and landlord, I understand that bettering the society around me is more valuable than saving a few hundred bucks a year.

        Of course, making our region better has had the side effect of attracting a lot of people, which has driven up property values and by far has been the largest culprit of property tax increases.

        So you might think that all homeowners/landlords are a bunch of anti-tax, crusty old farts that hate bettering society, but I’m proof you’re wrong. Also, King County voting district maps in Seattle for the various levies, showing heavy SFH districts as pro levy also prove you wrong.

        Also, rebelling? Maybe in Broadmoor.

        Landlords can’t just pass everything along, and in fact lately, they’re not.

        *Citation needed*

        Myself and every other landlord I know passes on 100% of property taxes to their tenants. Landlords that don’t are either crazy or extremely generous.

        Maybe YOU are the one that isn’t a homeowner or landlord.

        What similar options do homeowners have to paying their increasing property tax bills, when rents fall?

        Typically, when rents are falling, home values, and subsequently property taxes, are falling too. It may not be instantaneous, but that’s why I avoid offering leases less than a year.

        And don’t even talk about a city income tax, because it’ll never happen. All that’ll do is crater the real estate market…

        Well, first off, any income tax is illegal under the Washington State Constitution, which will likely never be changed, so of course it will never happen in Seattle. Second, how would that crater the real estate market? My simple counterpoint is for the states that have both high income tax and sales tax, but insane real estate markets: California and New York.

      • “Citation needed”
        Here:
        https://www.seattletimes.com/business/real-estate/free-amazon-echo-2-months-free-rent-2500-gift-cards-seattle-apartment-glut-gives-renters-freebies/

        You’ve already agreed that the idea of free public transit was no more than a “thought experiment” (your words) because we can’t even afford our basic infrastructure. That was my original point— that we can’t afford it because we’d never be able to fund it. So now, are you arguing just to argue? You postulated some “more stable funding source” and I pointed out all the tedious but predictable political roadblocks we’d encounter on the way to free transit. Have you found one yet, or do you just want to keep arguing about why those reasons shouldn’t stop free transit? Ok, fine, start holding your breath for that free transit. Whether it’s for those reasons I mentioned, or maybe the absence of that still-not-identified “more stable funding source”, I won’t be expecting it anytime soon. Or probably my lifetime, anyway.

      • That was my original point— that we can’t afford it because we’d never be able to fund it. So now, are you arguing just to argue?

        I simply pointed out that when modal uses shift, funding sources would shift to match. I didn’t claim to know what those sources were. You pressed me later and I came up with some a couple.

        You went down the property tax\levies\landlord rabbit hole. I was just along for the ride and would agree that our argument has long diverged from the original purpose. Let’s just part ways, both agreeing that free transit is not likely to happen for at least a generation or two.

    • Free transit = a very dystopian hellscape. I say thank you ST for keeping our stations and trains generally clean and free of the dodgy characters I often see on my evening rides on a KCM bus. The “compare and contrast” on rider quality (in terms of safety and cleanliness) is very stark between Metro and ST. Serious tragedy-of-the-commons when you make something completely free.

  2. Why are is fare enforcement unfair to people of color as the author states? I don’t get it. I understand its impact on the low income and homeless populations but all ‘People of Color’, what’s that about? So if you’re a ‘Person of Color’ you should be able to ride for free but everyone else needs to pay?

    • The author is probably referring to the intersecting issues of economic status and race, or the racial disproportions of Sound Transit and Sheriff officers policing populations where a greater proportion are people of color. It’s nothing to do with riding for free because you’re not white. Both articles the author linked explain this.

    • Because it’s the fare enforcement person’s discretion whether to ask to see fare, and there are deeply ingrained, racist beliefs in this society about who appears trustworthy and who does not.

      • “Because it’s the fare enforcement person’s discretion whether to ask to see fare”

        I have never seen a fare officer skip a person as they do a round through the car to check everyone. Have you?

      • I 100% agree with Mr. Squirrel. I have been riding the light rail multiple times a day since the opening of the Capitol Hill station and have never seen a fare enforcement officer skip over anyone. They hit everyone up on the car, moving from one end to the other. Usually meeting up with a fellow officer in the middle of the train car, who has been working the other end of the car. I’m not saying that it’s not possible, but it’s not something I’ve seen in my thousands of rides.

        Now don’t get me wrong, there is no call for anyone to be violently assaulted for not paying to ride. We’re talking about two different issues here.

      • NOT TRUE! The fare enforcers have a very specific way that they enter, and perform a fare check on each train. They don’t skip anyone, and their progression through the cars is always the same. The process is completely neutral.

  3. A related issue: according to their own in-house studies, scanners fail an unusually large rate. I’ve been hassled unfairly over this issue more than once. For these strutting hammers, everyone who doesn’t fit a certain archetype is a nail. Force can’t be justified since we’re all potential targets.

    • Note, also, that since paper receipts are not provided, the only way to prove one’s innocence when using an ORCA card is to allow one of these private security guards to use a device that reads unspecified information off of your card–a card which caries not just stored value, but a record of when and where you used public transit. Worse, Sound Transit staff assisted some vendor sue to block public access to the source code for the publicly-funded software used on those devices.

  4. Too bad the person taking the video doesn’t have any of the events leading up to the filmed interaction to show. There’s always more, sometimes much more, to the story than the average video phone-wielding activist will show.

    • Yup, as that “phone-wielding activist”, I agree. All I can do is, when I see a conflict resolution and use of force aggressively escalate in a manner that does not at seem appropriate or proportionate, try to expose it from my limited POV.

      I don’t like it when people take my experience and ascribe it with more certainty or conclusions than I did. That’s the internet for you. But none of that changes the fact that (from my vantage point, and from those around me) it did not at all appear to be an appropriate or necessary use of force.

      • Of course, from your vantage point you ass-umed that security and KCSD knocked the miscreant’s glasses to the ground & crushed them. You were wrong on that count too.

      • yes, but you didn’t just expose it.

        you seemed more than willing to inflate what you admit was limited knowledge of the situation with your video. you never bothered to say, “hey, i saw this. not sure what led to it but here it is.” no, in your commentary you decided it was a jack-booted attempt to subdue someone for JUST not paying a fare.
        you ascribed very specific conclusions despite your lack of knowledge. you even did it again in this comment above:

        “…none of that changes the fact that (from my vantage point, and from those around me) it did not at all appear to be an appropriate or necessary use of force.”

        you don’t have the full story, yet you are more than willing to ascribe a certainty to it. your conclusion, despite not having all the facts, is that this action was wrong.

    • I agree. Let’s await the report from the King Co Sheriff/Sound Transit police before jumping to any conclusion. I think it’s likely there is more to this incident than simple far evasion.

  5. They aggressively check fares in the south end, where most POC live and NEVER check between Cap Hill and UDistrict. I’ve heard the mostly-white students boast about not paying between Cap Hill and UDistrict. One stop – why bother?

    • Have you considered the fact that there are 13 stations between the south end and downtown and 2 between Capitol Hill and Husky Stadium? May I ask how you have determined that they specifically enforce those stations?

      Your observation is anecdotal evidence, but I don’t see a conspiracy. White kids cheat fares too, big deal. Lots of people cheat fares.

      • I’ll contribute to Mary’s anecdotal evidence with my own anecdotal evidence. I have been riding from Capitol Hill to UW on the light rail almost daily for the last year. At the times I ride, the cars are quite full. I have never once seen fare enforcement check for fares during these stops. Although every time I ride to the airport, I can, without fail, expect to find fare enforcement making their rounds as we get further south. Doesn’t make a lot of sense. One stop is plenty of time for 2 officers to cover one car full of people.

    • @Mutha Mary – this morning fare enforcement boarded the train I was on in the U District. They scanned everyone in my car. I got off at Capitol Hill, they exited as well changing cars continuing on south bound.
      In the past I’ve seen them do a fake scan on everyone. I pointed out that the scanning device wasn’t on and was met with a, “yes I know.” I’ve always wondered about that particular interaction.
      The streetcar – that’s where I see the highest rate of nonpayers.

    • I ride from UW to Capitol Hill every weekday, and have had to show my pass to fare enforcers many times. Not usually in the morning, but during rush hour. It definitely happens up here.

  6. Fare evasion is just plain WRONG.

    Good work cops, hope the message is sent: If you want to ride transit, SHUT UP AND PAY YOUR FARE. THANKS.

    If you want fare free transit, prepare for LESS transit service. That’s the reality.

  7. Cool, a video with no context for people to get outraged about. When’s Sawant’s press conference?

    Most people don’t get subdued for not paying the fare, so I’m going to guess there’s a little more to this than big bad fare inspectors deciding to take down someone for forgetting to tap their ORCA card. Hopefully the full video will be more informative as to the nature of what happened.

  8. Observations (after watching the video):

    The guy is white, which does not support the narrative of this publication.

    The guy is clearly still wearing his glasses, contrary to the embedded Twitter post.

    This is not a reliable news sources.

    • (I recorded the video) I didn’t even catch that at the end, he’s absolutely still wearing his glasses. It happened very quickly. All I knew was that a) he was wearing glasses, b) he was suddenly thrown to the ground, and c) I saw glasses on the ground that were disregarded and eventually trampled. Good catch.

      Neither I nor CHS claimed he was a PoC. You should read that line again.

  9. “Sgt. Ryan Abbott, a King County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, clarified that the incident began earlier on the northbound train, where the man was cited for failing to pay his fare. He was allowed to continue riding on the train, per Sound Transit policy.

    “Everything seemed fine at first,” Abbott said.

    Abbott said soon after, the man started swearing, yelling and making a scene. He got off the train at the next stop and continued to yell and use foul language before jumping on the southbound train.

    A sergeant followed him onto the southbound train and tried to calm him down, but he continued swearing and yelling at officers. He then grabbed onto a pole.

    Officers told him to exit the train and warned that he would be arrested if he didn’t stop screaming.

    The man reportedly refused to cooperate, which is when they tried to arrest him. A struggle ensued, and officers eventually got him on the ground and handcuffed him, Abbott said.

    The suspect was not injured, according to Abbott, and the glasses that were broken in the scuffle belonged to one of the officers — not the man who was arrested.

    He allegedly continued yelling and resisting officers even after he was handcuffed.

    The man was booked for unlawful transit conduct and resisting arrest.”

  10. Once again the “outrage generation” has overblown a situation.

    Rules and laws are made to be followed If not, expect to pay the consequences

    I don’t care what color you are, follow the rules and don’t be a fucked up jerk

    Would you rather the police ..transit or otherwise, stop enforcing the laws and rules of civil society? Would you rather have chaos?

      • The people that sit on their pulpit and preach that rules and laws are meant to be followed, are typically the same people that complain when the City hit them with fines for not following laws and regulations regarding their property.

      • So Larry …. Law abiders “sit on their pulpit and preach that rules and laws are meant to be followed “?

        You think that laws or civil society rules should not be followed?

        So next time I’m in the store I can just take whatever I want just because I can? Punch you in the face? No consequences?

        It seems to me that if this was a person of color the “victimization generation” would be out there screaming blooding murder..but the guy was white so its just muted faux semi outrage.

        Remember what MLK said…

        a person should “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

        I see a HUGE lack of character these days IE: Freeloaders / Law Breakers

      • @jeff: Now you’re putting words in my mouth!

        I was pointing out the hypocritical BS that the self righteous spout, when they themselves are not the innocent people they make themselves out to be.

  11. Public transit should be available to the public, not just to people who pay per ride for it.

    But if we’re not going to do that, then entry to transit vehicles should be restricted to those who paid.

    But if we’re not going to do that, then transit staff should go through the train, verify that people have paid, and sell fare to those who have not paid. Sound Transit does not do this, so obviously, they are not focused on ensuring that everyone paid.

    Sound Transit sold us an “honor system” to cut costs. Then, instead of treating everyone as honorable, they turned around and started periodically demanding that every rider prove his or her innocence.

    If a few other people would join me in searching very, very, very slowly and methodically, through every wallet, bag, pocket, and envelope on me for my ORCA card when the fare inspectors sweep a train car, this system of harassment would become impractical. Sometimes it takes me 5-10 minutes to find that card. I always put it somewhere safe after I use it.

  12. In March of 2017, Leigh Tennison at Sound Transit reported to me that the “2016 budget for personnel performing fare enforcement on Sounder was $173,798.” I don’t have similar figures for Link.

    In response to my request for “reports generated in the past three years detailing estimated and/or actual cost of fare evasion on Sounder (i.e., opportunity cost of transporting passengers who neglected to pay the fare),” Ms. Tennison provided “YTD Fare Inspection Rate reports” for 2014, 2015, and 2016.

  13. Please put in turnstiles/gates that only let you pass once you pay! This “we trust you till we catch you” system is dumb. The trains will generate more money and we’ll get more lines and more cars faster.

    No one has the right to ride the train for free, there are deep discounts for students and the elderly; if the city decides to provide discounts to poor people, let the city decide how to divvy that limited resource. Fare skippers are just thieves, they don’t merit any sympathy.

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